Adaptability in Action: Your Guide to Developing Change Management Skills

If you’re hoping to be among the 34% of businesses that make it past ten years, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row as a leader. And that means investing the necessary time into honing your craft as a leader. When you’re steady and engaged in communication as a leader, you’ll be poised to navigate even the choppiest waters with your organization. 

Don’t take on big or small changes without having a strategy ready. Keep reading to find a helpful guide for developing change management skills!

Know Why Change Management Is Vital

First, consider why improving your sense of change management is important in the first place. Not everyone will be on board with significant changes that disrupt their patterns or roles at your organization. You’ll need to be a steady presence and keep your employees calm and motivated. 

From a leadership standpoint, change management boils down to knowing how to move forward with those changes in your organization. These can be sweeping changes that affect your organization’s mission. They also can be minor changes that still impact an individual or team’s job.

As an adaptive leader, you’ll need to identify what those changes should be and how they will affect your organization. Remember that you’ll be the one executing the changes and delegating responsibilities. 

It’s inevitable that your company may go through some big changes at some point in its journey. These could include making cuts to streamline operations. Or you may need to expand your product offerings or relocate. 

Whatever the changes may be, you’ll want to be poised to step up as a leader. Even smaller, day-to-day challenges within the office space can present opportunities to negotiate change. That’s why leaders will benefit from developing change management skills. 

Focus on Strategic Thinking

As a leader, you can build buy-in with most proposed changes if you demonstrate an ability to tie them to a bigger, loftier mission. You’ll need to articulate your organization’s mission regularly. And you’ll need to show a capacity for strategic thinking that can move your organization forward. 

Plan on providing ample evidence to show how any changes will impact every area of your organization. After all, strategic thinking also means considering the consequences of every action. Your employees will respect research-backed decisions.

Offer documents and presentations that show the scope of what is proposed. Explain how different departments or personnel will be impacted in their roles. Map out the changes over weeks, months, or years, as well, to help everyone know the timetables. 

Involve your employees in strategic thinking processes in a more active way, as well. That can translate to forming work groups in the early stages of proposed changes. Gathering feedback can help you revise plans for more effective results. 

Involving your employees in strategic thinking also builds trust and resilience. Stronger trust, in turn, makes it easier to weather bumps along the way. And it might just help you retain your best employees.

Improve Your Communication Skills

As a leader, you’ll need to practice clear and transparent communication skills. Even if you’re not the most natural orator, that’s okay. The words you choose are the most important part of any interaction.

Effective change management hinges on a give-and-take approach to communication that involves all stakeholders. You don’t want to be the lone wolf making decisions without regard for others. Instead, you want your employees to feel involved in the processes.

When change is in the air, frequent communication is key. Especially with bigger changes that affect job security, silence can trigger anxiety. You’ll need to create a timetable for regular communication to build resilience.

Offer updates as changes unfold. Send weekly memos to key stakeholders and broader communications to all employees. Schedule in-person or virtual presentations, too, where you can offer updates and take questions. 

Always remember that your employees have something to offer. They may have insights into potential hurdles given their particular roles in the organization. Allow them opportunities to communicate with you, too, so they can feel invested in what’s happening. 

Prioritize Active Listening

While talking clearly is important, so is listening intently. To be an effective change manager, you’ll need to be a good listener. When you’re at the top of an organization, however, it’s easy to feel disconnected from those in positions below you. 

You’ll need to be intentional about creating times where active listening takes priority. You’ll build a culture of respect and personal growth when you encourage active engagement. 

Schedule meetings with smaller groups of employees, especially if you’re in a larger organization. Employees will feel appreciated from the start if they know you’re committing time to hearing their concerns or questions.

Come to these questions with information. But be prepared to let your employees steer the conversation. And be prepared to hear feedback that might not always be comfortable to digest.

Avoid rushing to your own defense when you hear a criticism. Even if you want to jump in with a response, it’s better to focus on active listening. Feel free to ask followup questions, though, to ensure you’re understanding the content. 

As another benefit, active listening can alert you to areas of confusion. You may discover a team member whose understanding of proposed changes is inaccurate. You’ll have an opportunity to clarify points of confusion and establish more trust in the process. 

Jot down notes after meeting with employees while the information is fresh in your mind. You can take notes while meeting with employees, as well. Just be mindful that this may create anxiety if individuals feel like they’re offering an unpopular opinion. 

Do the Research

Ultimately, any change you make will be stronger if it’s backed by research. Ideally, your organization will have been collecting data over the course of its existence. Use this data to your advantage as you plot your next moves. 

For example, you may run an organization that offers a software package used by companies around the world. Look at the data regarding companies’ satisfaction with your products. You may find that one particular software package isn’t worth the financial investment if not as many companies are buying it.

Or you may notice that customer feedback suggests that more support measures are necessary. This might mean allocating more resources to hiring new customer-facing employees. It could also mean restructuring your organization as a result. 

Other internal data can help you know areas where sales are soaring or lagging. Researching your competitors can help you figure out what parts of the market are saturated. And that might just help you find a niche where you can develop a new product that helps you stand out from the crowd.

Any savvy organization will make ongoing research a priority. In a leadership role, you’ll need to set the tone by using data to back up your claims in every memo or announcement. You’ll need to set standards that expect the same diligence from your employees.

Establish and Revisit Metrics

Finally, don’t assume that any change will be positive. Even with the best research, you still might hit unforeseen roadblocks. And something that seemed like a sure bet might be a flop.

With strong change readiness skills, the best leaders won’t undertake changes and then move on. In other words, they won’t let things continue without constant assessment.

If a well-intention plan starts to head south, regular evaluations can help you make changes to reroute your plans. This effort starts with establishing metrics.

As a leader, you should establish benchmarks for success before even enacting a change. This is a task you should do with senior leaders as an act of change readiness. Determine what metrics will indicate a change is successful. 

Similarly, determine what levels of sales or participation, for instance, would indicate a change is not working. You may decide after six months or a year to stop a particular program or reconfigure a team.

Don’t stop there, however. Revisit those metrics again and again.

Some issues may pop up right away. But others will show themselves slowly and require patience to observe. In either case, you’ll want to be adaptable in your leadership role.

This might be helpful to do at quarterly meetings or biannually. But you don’t want to let years go by without checking in on your changes. You’ll build resilience and those around you if you’re willing to confront the truth and navigate change honestly.

Further, you could end up with proof that a change is working. When you can point to goals being met, employees may be able to see a change as a positive development rather than a hindrance.

Develop Better Change Management Skills

Honing your change management skills starts with developing a clear and transparent roadmap for any proposed change. Good leaders will set metrics for success, and they won’t be afraid to get feedback from employees. Plan on being communicative throughout the process.

At Poised for the Future Company, we can help you develop the growth mindset to succeed. For three decades, we’ve been helping companies grow, build high performing teams, and make change work. Reach out to us today to learn more!

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First things first: what does grit even mean? You’ve probably heard the advice “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” attributed to coach Kunte Rockne. That quote captures the essence of grit.  The character trait of grit often refers to passion, the consistency of interest, and perseverance, the ability to endure tough times.

For instance, we’ve all experienced setbacks. They could range from struggling to learn a new skill, recovering from an injury, losing a job, or even bankruptcy.

What Does Grit Look Like?

People with high levels of Grit are confident in achieving long-term goals. They are often described as ‘determined’ and ‘hard workers’. No-pain-no-gain might be the grit motto. Gritty people tend to keep going until the work is done. They take pride in finishing what they start. Their mental focus and emotional stamina are very high. They don’t let short-term gains, negative feedback, or hectic schedules deter them. People with high grit are not discouraged easily; they see setbacks and obstacles as challenges that can be overcome with commitment and hard work. Grit, however, is not always a good thing. Gritty people are often so focused on their goals that they get blinded-sided by outside influences and have blind spots when it comes to alternative ideas. 

People with low levels of grit give up quickly. Setbacks and obstacles easily discourage them. When change happens they can find it difficult to stay on course with long-term goals. They flee at the first sign of trouble and often blame others. They start a lot of projects but get discouraged easily. 

How Grit Can Help Your Business

Why is grit something you need to look for when hiring and developing employees? The future of work is full of opportunity but the journey will be anything but certain. Perseverance and passion will be needed in abundance. These are some scenarios where employees with grit become a beneficial trait for your company.

They Understand That Good Things Take Time

Millennials have often been criticized for their need for instant gratification. While it might be true for some of them, grit had to be part of this generation’s makeup. Now in their 30s and 40s, they have endured school shootings, 9/11 terrorism, and the Great Recession…and they are now growing and thriving. It’s only human to get frustrated when we don’t see the instant rewards from our work. Contributing to a project day in and day out, and not getting recognition or confronting bureaucratic idiocy, is disheartening. Many employees may be tempted to just quit.

If your employee has grit, however, they know good things take time. Setbacks are not failures, but part of the journey.  When personal interests align with goals, it’s easier to persevere and feel that your efforts will be rewarded. People with grit stay and push through.